The Good Doctor Rapidfire


Berkeley, CA
1999 or 2000, late fall

I'm with Dawn. My petite, blonde, wife. I'm taller. Skinnier than I am now, but no handsomer.

We're standing on the corner a block or two south of the UC Berkeley Bookstore.

I'm chomping on a slice o'pizza. Dawn's just returned to the sidewalk from the red-brick store behind us, with a smoothie.

A young man, 25-30 years of age, approaches. It's been a few days since he's shaved and it shows. He's wearing a sport coat over a sweater over a flannel shirt, and it's almost cool enough for that. The sky is a clear, bright blue and just a few clouds are scudding by. There's a breeze ... and a pretty good crowd. It's a Sunday afternoon.

Everything's cool. I mean, it's Berkeley.

Still, I'm checking the guy out. His slacks are cuffed, high, to show mis-matched socks, and he's got a cotton ball cap worn over a wool watch cap with the watch cap stretched back up and over the ball cap -- as far as it will reach. Every stitch of clothing draping his short, middle-weight frame is frayed at the edges.

His eyes are shining, brown; and he's speaking with an exagerated, almost courtly syntax laid over a soft California accent.

"Pardon me, sir. Madam. I could not help but notice: you appear to be enjoying the day."

"Uh huh." I'm waiting for the con. We may be in Berkeley, but I'm from Kansas City. I'm the suspicious sort, but still approachable, I guess.

"You remind me, sir, of a doctor with whom I once ... worked."

"Yeah?" Still waiting. Dawn is making a little space between us and her.

"Like you, his hair was of a color that some -- the less politically correct -- might refer to as: Red. A color that those of us who are better informed, more sensitive to nuance, more ... aware, would call ... Rapid Fire!"

"Really?" I am thinking this work they did together may have been of a doctor-patient variety.

"Yes, sir. And, like you, he was very kind."

"Go on." This must be the set up.

"Yes. You are a great man, Dr. Rapidfire. You are kind. You are understanding, keenly intellectual ... and yet brave and strong. Women and children recognize this in you and they are drawn to you for they feel safe in your presence."

I do a poor job of stiffling a guffaw and reach into my pocket thinking I may have left a dollar bill in there loose when I bought my slice. When he asks for spare change, I figure a compliment that grand is worth at least a buck. But he never makes the pitch. Instead ...

"That's all, sir." He nods toward Dawn, who's several steps removed by now. "I apologize for interupting your afternoon on this lovely day." Turning back to me, "I just wanted to convey my appreciation for all your fine work, sir. Thank you, Dr. Rapidfire." He swivels away and strides off.

I double check that I still have my wallet. It's there.

Dawn steps close to half-whisper, "You know that's a clinical example of schizophrenia, right?"

"Well, sure. But that doesn't mean he's wrong!"


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